It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe in. It is not important whether you are a practising Christian (one who actually follows the teachings of Jesus Christ), or a ‘Practice’ Christian (one who is trying his best but acknowledges that “dis ting no easy” and who knows that there is always Sunday to go and pray away the sins of Monday to Saturday. Especially those of Friday night). Or you might be a ‘Practiced’ Christian. Now this one is in a class of his own. A proficient hypocrite and dissembler. A repository of all the popular scriptures and appropriate noises, he is often the ‘Brother’ who everyone knows is one day going to receive ‘the call’ to go start his own church and leave the present church with half of the congregation. They very quickly become public nuisances, making failed prophecies on the outcome of football matches or bragging about their private jets in-between making outlandish claims of teleporting people between toilets of two European countries without visas.
I digress. I was saying it doesn’t matter what you believe, you just have to admire Jesus. If you have ever taken the time to read his words, you have no choice but to marvel at the deep wisdom he brings to every situation. I will quickly mention three of such instances. When the Pharisees plotted to entrap him with his words by sending people to ask if it was right to pay taxes to Emperor Caeser, he neither confirmed nor denounced it. He simply requested that a coin be brought to him. He then asked the people whose image and name were inscribed on to the coin? They replied that it was Caeser’s. And that was when he uttered those immortal words: “give unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 13-17). How do you beat that for wisdom? But there is another even more profound.
The Pharisees came again to test him (they never stopped trying) and this time, they brought a woman who had been “caught in adultery”. Somehow, the man with whom she had been ‘adulterying’ managed to escape or maybe it was not yet an offence at that time for men to ‘adulteryfy’! Whatever the reason, the woman had to carry her cross alone. They wanted Jesus’ opinion on whether she should be stoned to death as was the custom at the time. If he said they should go ahead and stone her to death, it would go against everything he had been preaching. If he however said they should not stone her, it would lead to a confrontation with the authorities, which was actually what they were hoping for. To an ordinary man, this would be a major conundrum. He simply looked up at them and said words that remain immutable over 2000 years after: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone…”. (John 8:1-9). And one by one, they sneaked away, probably quite ashamed of themselves. I said to a friend that the woman in the story should thank God she was not caught in Nigeria. We would have interpreted Jesus’ words as an invitation to open fire!
The third and final one which I am going to mention is actually the backdrop to a situation I found myself in a few years ago. One day, he was invited to visit one of those troublesome Pharisees and he noticed how some of the other invitees where raising shoulders and going to sit at the most important places. He then dropped one of his gems: “When you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit in the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited. Then the host who invited both of you will come and tell you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ And in humiliation, you will have to take the last place. (Luke 14:7-12). Let me interpret: do not rate yourself too highly. Whatever you think you are, someone else is more. Humble yourself and let others exalt you. They say ‘pride goes before a fall’.
I had been on a panel of discussants at an international Health & Safety Conference alongside the Head of HSE in one of the country’s major parastatals. We exchanged cards and he invited me to drop by his office whenever I had time for a chat and see what we could possibly do together. So one fine afternoon, myself and a work colleague dropped in on him. He was quite effusive with his words of appreciation that I came by and offered coffee. He sent for the Deputy and made the introductions, speaking lavishly about my presentation at the Conference. One way or another, it came out that I had attended the Nigeria Military School and I had some military experience. The Deputy mentioned that they also had an old soldier in the Corporation and that he was always sounding off about NMS. He was the head of IT and wondered if I would like to meet him. I answered in the positive. A call was placed to his office and he was invited to drop by and meet someone special if he could spare a minute. He obliged.
He breezed into the office with a rather imperious air, barely acknowledging those of us he didn’t know. The Director introduced me as his own “Oga in the Safety profession” but that he was pleasantly surprised to find I had also attended NMS. The Ex-Boy looked towards me and to my utter shock, while barely smiling, he declared “ah! That’s good. I don’t recognize him. Im sure he didn’t meet me in school”. I was dumbfounded as this response was the last thing I expected. You see, NMS is very special for several reasons. One of them is the uniqueness of the experience you go through during your time there. It is unlike anything experienced anywhere else, not even the Nigerian Defence Academy. This creates a certain level of bonding with all ExBoys that remains with you all your life, whether he is old enough to be your father or he is younger than your son. That was why I was so surprised at this fellow’s response at being introduced to me.
I looked closely at him and didn’t recognize him either. I guessed he couldn’t have been older than me by any means, even though I looked younger. I knew he was not my Senior. When you get admitted into your first year in NMS (at least during our time), you had two overarching goals: one was to ‘stay alive’ long enough to become a Senior Boy. The second had a lot to do towards achieving the first: knowing everyone who made it into the school before you, even if it was by one year. An error in the second could lead to you deciding it was not worth trying to achieve the first. So I knew this fellow was not my Senior while I was in school and he wasn’t old enough to have left before I came in. I smiled innocently and asked when he entered NMS. He said 1983 and I could almost see his chest puff to the point of popping a couple of buttons. I replied “you are absolutely right. I never met you in NMS.” He preened. “ The thing is you didn’t meet me either as I left before you came in. For your information, you are talking to a 63NA!” He suddenly looked like he had been slapped in the face. He knew what that meant. He knew my Army number was from a series that was terminated after my set gained admission, probably long before he ever heard of NMS. I smiled as I looked at him because I knew what was coming, even as the civilians in the room were thoroughly bemused by this time. He stood up straight and smartly greeted: “Mon Sah!” I replied: “at ease”! His demystification was completed when he had to leave and he sought “permission to fall out Sah”!
Humility is such an attractive virtue in people. Whether its in relation to your education, pedigree, professional or financial accomplishments. Some people wear their spirituality or I daresay, religiousity, like a cloak and pass judgement on everyone else like they hold the keys to heaven and hell. Just undersell yourself a little and let the full extent of your wingspan remain a mystery. I assure you, those who deserve to know who you are will do so at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. Those whom you need to announce yourself to are probably undeserving of the effort. If you are confused, ask yourself!: what would Jesus have done?